The Suckadelic Era

The designer-toy world's biggest jerkbag thinks you're an asshole for reading this story.

The Suckadelic Era
Photographs by Dustin Fenstermacher
The Sucklord: the hardest-working dirtbag in toyland.

You're an Asshole for Reading This.

That's the first thing the Sucklord would want you to know. The second would be that the Sucklord's an asshole, too, but you might have already assumed that. The third might be that when the designer-toy world's biggest jerkbag had his own two-week retrospective in a pop-up Chelsea gallery this past January, this was the artist's statement handwritten on the wall:


The Sucklord holds court at Chinatown’s Nom Wah Tea Parlor with Suckadelic supervillain MARY PAPER$.
Dustin Fenstermacher
The Sucklord holds court at Chinatown’s Nom Wah Tea Parlor with Suckadelic supervillain MARY PAPER$.
The Sucklord in his Chrystie Street Sucklab. Yes, the robot behind him is holding a bong.
Dustin Fenstermacher
The Sucklord in his Chrystie Street Sucklab. Yes, the robot behind him is holding a bong.


The show's title was You're an Asshole for Buying This. Still, the Sucklord sold many pieces.

The Sucklord's credit card says "Suckadelic." His trading-card sets are marketed as "Suckpax." The West Village woman who gave him life proudly introduces herself as "the Suckmom." Probably the only bit of Sucklore the pop-culture entrepreneur doesn't want you to know is that underneath all the dumb bravado, the Sucklord actually seems like a pretty good guy.

Yawn. Exactly.

The Sucklord is 42-year-old Morgan Phillips, a lifelong Star Wars fan and unrepentant toy geek who lived with his mother until he was 36. For most of his adulthood, lucrative employment evaded the native New Yorker: The insurance company where his mother worked wouldn't hire him for the mail room; for three years after art school in Oregon, the P.S. 41 graduate set up mannequins at Canal Jeans and earned $7 an hour. None of this made his romantic life ideal. He didn't lose his virginity until he was 21; in 2004, he filmed the premiere episode of the short-lived VH1 series Can't Get a Date (2006), where the host interrogated the man-boy about a full urine bottle he kept beside his bed. (He refused to empty it because, as he told his mother off-camera, one day, it would be valuable.)

But over the past five years, Morgan Phillips has completely flipped the script. By bootlegging toys as the Sucklord—a side of his personality Morgan describes the same way Larry David talks about his Curb Your Enthusiasm counterpart—he looms large in the lowbrow-art realm as a fast-talking showman who crudely fabricates "illegal" toys, dons a purple leisure suit for public appearances, and arrives at comic-cons with a scantily clad bevy of Asian women. His work has sold in Christie's auctions. His limited-edition pieces, which outright mock the very act of toy collecting, usually sell out in a day, regarded among the very consumers he’s mocking as souvenirs of his cartoon-provocateur persona. ("It's like going to see a movie and leaving with a prop," is how one online defender explained.) He has a very cute girlfriend. And somehow next month, the Sucklord has amusingly talked his way into being a contestant on the second season of Bravo's faux-tony Work of Art: The Search for the Next Great Artist, the gallery world's Top Chef, which Sarah Jessica Parker co-produces.

"He will either win the whole thing or lose gloriously," pronounces Paul Budnitz, founder of toy boutique Kidrobot, who has never seen the cable show and doesn't watch television but knows who we're dealing with here. "Either way, it's a great victory for him."

Earlier this year, New York magazine's culture blog, Vulture, asked Sarah Jessica Parker, after this season's shooting had started, if she foresaw any breakout characters. She laughed. "Um, I suspect there might be one."

The Sucklord’s contract keeps him mum about specifics, but the intermingling of urbane wine-party critiques and a guy who’s interpretation of “fine art” is Boba Fett crucified on an X-Wing Fighter should be quite something. "I'm just not quite sophisticated enough to fit into the fine-art world," he admits, "but I'm not dumb and derivative enough to totally blend in with the toy world."

For example, at a 2008 custom-toy show of blank Bart Simpson Qee dolls that organizers asked artists to design, Sucklord put Bart in a jar of piss and submitted it as Piss Bart. Almost nobody got the Andres Serrano reference— the toy-nerd people thought it was supposed to be formaldehyde. "I'm sort of an oddity in the toy world,” he concurs. “There are some people who worship me like a God and other people who can't see past the crappy exterior and think I might be a hack. And I might be a hack." And that might entirely be the point.

Suckadelic Enterprises is, according to brand mythology, headquartered in a "secret" Chinatown facility. This is a partly savvy attempt to cast the unlicensed pop-art-merch company as a kindred spirit among Canal Street's fake-purse matrons and San Gennaro pickpocket crews and Broadway sidewalk scammers. It's also partly because Morgan Phillips rents a Mott Street apartment and feels most at home in this vestigial old New York neighborhood, among fellow hustlers who treat transactions like challenges.

Morgan conceived "Suckadelic" on an acid trip; it's actually hard to believe the word's absent from the Urban Dictionary. "I consider sucking bad," he says. "But if it's Suckadelic, it's transformational sucking." As a brand name, the word is an insurance policy, a gimmick, a joke, a shorthand for the hackneyed phrase so bad, it's good. “By calling it Suckadelic, you sort of lower your expectations: it might suck a little bit." Given that Suckadelic is a solo operation—he doesn’t personally have a publicist, an agent (yet), a reliable intern, an assistant, or a rich social life, though he does have a girlfriend who likes helping—the Sucklord doesn’t have the resources, the time, or even necessarily the intention to make his figures flawless. "The quality is not the main thing; it's the energy, or the idea, or the spirit behind it, not the quality."

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